Interim head coach Todd Nelson has the Oilers trending in the right direction for the first time in a long time, but there is still a sizable contingent out there that hopes to see a veteran head coach take over the reins when Edmonton makes a final decision this summer. How good does Nelson have to be to lose that “interim” tag?
Since the departure of Craig MacTavish from the bench, Nelson has the Oilers rolling along with a 3-1-2 record. If the team wins half of its 40 remaining games and collects overtime losses at its usual rate, Edmonton would finish the year 23-15-8 under his watch; would management fire him if that were to happen? Short of Mike Babcock showing up at the offices on Kingsway hat-in-hand it would be awfully difficult to justify.
That’s the line in the sand for me. If Nelson can have the team operating at something in the range of a true 0.500 clip the rest of the way (with the caveat that it needs to be on merit; if shootout wins and save percentage get him there it’s a different conversation) that’s a playoff contender and it has to be good enough given the state of the roster. If he’s somewhere south of that, it probably depends on two things:
- His team’s performance: how far south of 0.500 it is (and what the underlying numbers look like)
- Who else is available
There are a lot of interesting coaches already out there (Guy Boucher is probably at the top of my list, though there are others) and if someone like Todd McLellan shakes loose in the summer that field could get crowded in a hurry.
But if Nelson can get this team playing like a playoff contender, there isn’t any sense in going out to add another coach in the hopes that he can do the same thing.
|26.||New Jersey Devils||44||38|
Wins are always important. In the case of the Oilers, a lot of good can come from winning even now. It might help convince internal options like Jeff Petry and Rob Klinkhammer to stick around and it should also make this summer’s free agent shopping a little easier. It might help salvage the careers of people like Nail Yakupov,Anton Lander and Matt Fraser and it might also reinvigorate people like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle who have to be sick of playing for a bad hockey team.
But there is a consolation prize for losses: the worst team in the league is going to get to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. A win tonight will move the Oilers into a tie for 28th with Buffalo and Carolina, but a loss will keep them mired in 30th.
Personally, I think it’s virtually certain the Oilers finish ahead of at least the Sabres when all is said and done, so the team might as well move past them tonight.
There isn’t much new with the lines tonight, so I’ll instead point the reader to Lowetide’s piece earlier today on Derek Roy’s importance to the lineup as well as Matt Henderson’s take on what the arrival of Rob Klinkhammer means for the “fourth” line.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Litter Box Cats…
Tonight at 7PM ET, the Florida Panthers will faceoff with the Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, AB. Tonight’s contest will be the 25th between the two. Florida is currently 8-9-4 in the all-time series, with three ties. Like the Panthers’ last game, with a win tonight, they’ll get to .500 in points percentage all-time with a win.
Florida hasn’t defeated Edmonton, believe it or not, since December 11th, 2008. Radek Dvorak and Stephen Weiss potted markers, and Craig Anderson stopped all 41 Oilers shots for the 2-0 shutout victory. Since then, the Panthers have gone 0-2-3 in the series.
Game day prediction: Florida is on the fifth game of a six-game road trip, and while the team has gone 3-1-0 so far at some point that travel has to start to wear. Edmonton wins 3-1.
Obvious game day prediction: Half of Edmonton’s fans will watch Aaron Ekblad play and rue that he was gone before the Oilers got to pick this summer. The other half will watch his partner, Brian Campbell, and wish that Edmonton had traded for him back when the Blackhawks were looking to dump his salary. All of them will be right.
Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Jason tried this on his last GDB and came close, so here I go: Anton Lander will score his first NHL goal in nearly three years tonight against the Panthers.
RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS
- The Edmonton Oilers under three coaching regimes
- Did the Oilers see the game Jeff Petry just had?
- Shaping the 2015-16 Oilers defence
- Bob Green promoted; more changes to come?
- Adventures in development: Leon Draisaitl
- David Perron traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter